By Bogsi Panaligan
This is a celebration that honors the land that sustains life were the dreams and laughter of the people are etched like the ambahan poems carved with the siyaw (small knife) on bamboos along mountain trails. This is a struggle for life. A fight to defend the Daga Kaumputan or the ancestral land against the greed and callousness of big mining corporations. The Araw ng Mangyan is a celebration of a people united. The land is sacred as it is the lifeblood of the seven tribes (Hanunuo, Alangan, Iraya, Gubatnon, Tadyawan, Buhid, and Bangon).
The Indigenous Filipinos are the bearers of a glorious past, who are strug- gling for land rights and ownership in the present order. Development aggression spawned by mining firms and big-time logging concessionaires, and backed-up by the military, have been increasingly encroaching on their ancestral lands. These Ancestral lands, where the last remaining forests are located, have given life and sustenance to the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) since the pre-Hispanic times. But not to be cowed, the IPs are in the forefront in protecting the environment vis-a-vis calling for ownership of their ancestral lands. The soul of the tribe rests in the land. “Gusto namin mabigyan kami ng buong karapatan sa lupa namin, sa aming ancestral domain. Dito ang aming buhay, dito namin kinukuha ang aming ikinabubuhay,” Said an Ayta leader from Bataan. IPs had long since threaded the balance of living with nature. “The mountains gives life. That is why we honor them by giving them names.”, a Mangyan elder once told me. ■